Monday, September 30, 2013

Government shutdown? Skyline Drive & Blue Ridge Parkway would close -- UPDATED

 Mabry Mill would be closed during a government shutdown.

Come on, people ... Republicans did this in 1995 and had our behinds kicked to the curb by the American people who blamed the entire government shutdown on the GOP. Do we really have to repeat history?

Apparently so, for those who were not around back in the day. If you don't know history, you are bound to repeat it.

So what would be shut down?

Just as the east coast approaches leaf season when millions hit the roadways to admire the changing colors of fall, the Blue Ridge Parkway could be a victim of the shutdown. That trickles down to hotels, gas stations, restaurants, attractions, and other tourist-related businesses that clearly benefit during leaf season.

The Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Smokey Mountains would close under a government shutdown. That includes bathrooms, visitors centers, camping and picnic areas, concessions operations and backcountry trails.

The Mountain Press reported:
The last time the government shut down, in the mid-1990s, for 27 days, closures cost park-dependent communities an estimated $14 million daily, according to a report from the National Parks Conservation Association.

“When our national parks closed in 1995-96, I received an outpouring of calls from gateway communities alarmed by the situation,” said Phil Francis, the recently retired superintendent of Blue Ridge Parkway.

“The potential shutdown adds insult to injury because these communities are already concerned about the recent cutbacks in funding for national parks that have harmed the Park Service’s ability to serve visitors," Francis added. "No one expected these cuts to happen again. Now we’re looking at not only a potential shutdown, but the likelihood of another round of cuts. If that happens, there’s a good chance it’s going to be even harder.”
The Asheville Citizen-Times weighed in:
The parkway, which only recently reopened after a giant crack caused by a landslide was repaired, means a lot to tourism-related businesses in Asheville.

If the shutdown happens, and lasts into the fall leaf season, small businesses could feel the pinch.
The Roanoke Times laid it on the line:
The Blue Ridge Parkway and many of its attractions will close during its peak travel season if the federal government shuts down on Tuesday.

All national parks will be forced to close if Congress does not agree on a spending bill by midnight Monday. If a shutdown happens, park rangers have been instructed to close the parkway.

“The plan is to close up all operations and shut the gates for the most part,” said Leesa Brandon, Partnerships & Community Outreach Coordinator for the parkway. “I am still hopeful that there will be a resolution and it won’t come to that.”
Last week's journey down the Blue Ridge Parkway would not have been possible this week if the shutdown goes through. All the places SWAC Husband and I visited are slated to be closed:
Although many details will still need to be addressed, the Department of the Interior’s plan seems to instruct parkway attractions such as Mabry Mill, the Peaks of Otter and other privately managed venues on parkway property to close. Even if those places are allowed to remain open, however, travelers in automobiles would have limited access.

Likewise, should a shutdown occur, the Blue Ridge Music Center will be forced to close and its daily bluegrass and old-time mountain music events will be canceled.
No leaf looking along Skyline Drive ... Shenandoah National Park closed ... no taking Polly to lunch at Skyland Resort as we had planned. The shutdown would close it all and, again, affect businesses along the way.

NPR senior business editor Marilyn Geewax commented:
"... tourism could take a big hit. Consider if you owned a restaurant. I talked to a guy who owned a restaurant out - just outside of the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Early October is the leaf peeping season. That's when people are out there, driving around. If the National Park is closed, the Skyline Drive is closed, that's a real hit on all of that tourism industry out there. So restaurant owners worry, stores worry and, you know, the entire really travel industry is concerned because passports won't get processed.

"So people may not plan various trips. So we're not really talking about an airport shutdown. Air traffic controllers will be deemed essential. TSA workers, they'll be essential. But it's all the things around traveling. Yes, the airport may be open, but if Yosemite Park is closed, what's the point of going on your vacation?"
Glad we made our trek last week when we were able to see Peaks of Otter, Mabry Mill, Explore Park, the BRP Music Center, and all the other sights along that meandering American byway.

UPDATED 10/1/2013: A last-minute decision on Monday by the National Park Service will allow the Blue Ridge Parkway to remain open during the government shutdown. Political reporter Bob Stuart has the latest today in the News-Virginian.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell


John Doe said...

The Blue Ridge Parkway won't close. It's a public highway outside of a park. BUT, the facilities that are run by the government will be closed...

Lynn R. Mitchell said...

John Doe, my understanding (and I could be wrong) is that the Blue Ridge Parkway will closed with the exception of a few limited areas that are used by local traffic.

Lynn R. Mitchell said...

From about the Blue Ridge Parkway: "The National Park Service had indicated Sunday it would close the gates on the 469-mile scenic road, but it changed that plan Monday."

Roadway is open but facilities are closed on the BRP.

Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park are closed.